President Barack Obama is "disappointed" that North Carolina passed an amendment to its state constitution banning same-sex marriage, according to a statement from his campaign Wednesday morning.
"The president has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples," Obama's North Carolina spokesman Cameron French said.
"He believes the North Carolina measure singles out and discriminates against committed gay and lesbian couples, which is why he did not support it," the statement continued. "President Obama has long believed that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and legal protections as straight couples and is disappointed in the passage of this amendment."
Obama's stance on same-sex marriage is under renewed scrutiny this week after Vice President Joe Biden offered a candid assessment of the issue, saying on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that he was "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex marriage and adding that gay men and women were entitled to "the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties."
Top campaign adviser David Axelrod sought to diffuse the ensuing controversy, saying Obama and Biden shared the same perspective. Axelrod noted that Obama has instructed the Department of Justice to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, a law prohibiting the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions.
"The president believes that the law is unconstitutional and when people are married we ought to recognize those marriages according to the rights to which they're entitled," Axelrod said.
While the Obama camp consistently touts the president's move on the Defense of Marriage Act, as well as his role in overturning the Don't Ask, Don't Tell ban on gays serving in the military, gay rights advocates have pushed the president to explicitly back same-sex unions.
The president has not staked out a specific position on the issue and deflects questions on it. His stated position is that the states, not the federal government, must decide.
Just as he criticized the North Carolina amendment, he praised New York's legalization of same-sex marriage last summer as "a profound recognition on the part of the American people that gays and lesbians and transgender persons are our brothers and sisters, our children, our cousins, our friends, our co-workers, and that they've got to be treated like every other American."
"We're moving in a direction of greater equality, and I think that's a good thing," Obama said during a June 2011 press conference. But he declined to answer questions about his personal beliefs, saying only that New York debating the issue was "exactly how things should work."
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